Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gag of pastors speaking on candidates challenged

There's an organized effort to legally challenge an IRS rule which prohibits pastors from explicitly supporting or opposing political candidates.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a social conservative, pro-family public interest law group, is working with pastors to deliver sermons in which they explicitly oppose particular candidates for political office because of their stand on the great moral issues of the day.

The religious and secular left is going apoplectic, arguing that ADF's efforts are unethical and even illegal.

I suspect what's motivating the Left's response is fear motivated by politics. They are fearful that the powerful, moral authority of pastors will be energized to speak out on the great moral issues of the day -- life and marriage -- and impact elections.

This sort of legal activity is nothing new or unprecedented. The ACLU and other liberal public interest legal groups have for decades systematically found plaintiffs and organized lawsuits to establish new legal principles advancing their agenda. Now when the conservative side does it they cry foul.

Nor, of course, is endorsement of candidates by pastors a violation of the separation of church and state myth that religiously based moral concerns have no right to be voiced in the public square. The appropriate separation of church and state is an institutional separation between the governmental and religious institutions, e.g. no state sponsored and financed churches.

The IRS regulation in question resulted from an amendment slipped into a bill in 1954 by then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson who was upset by Texas pastors who opposed him politically. Whether through the courts or Congress, the regulation should be eliminated.

Personally, I wouldn't encourage pastors to get into the "endorsement of candidates" business. Rather I'd encourage them to articulate the moral principles involved, highlight candidates stand, and encourage people vote based on moral, biblical principles. I believe public support or criticism of a candidate's or elected official's positions is appropriate. However, I think pastors should have the freedom to endorse or oppose candidates as they see fit.

Pastors can already say and do a lot short of explicit endorsements. Another problem with the current situation is the laws are so unclear, it's difficult to know where exactly the line is. The result is a chilling effect on pastors in regards to voicing their views on even the issues and candidates' positions on the issues. Striking down the ban on endorsement of candidates would clarify the situation.

2 comments:

mom said...

one statement only.

seperation of church and state.

This country was founded on religious freedom

your no different than communists to want your religion to state what to vote.

mom said...

one statement only.

seperation of church and state.

This country was founded on religious freedom

your no different than communists to want your religion to state what to vote.